I was home alone on a Tuesday night. It was Spring break and, despite all of the things my parents wanted me to do (go to the mall with friends, see a movie, catch up on my reading), I had nothing really going on. For the past five days, I've spent my free times sitting in front of the TV and drawing my favorite Marvel superheroes.
Well, tonight was... different, I'll say. As usual, I was watching comedy shows and drawing my favorite characters and the people I shipped them with. My dad was on a business trip for the next two days, and my mom was running what she liked to call "late night errands". Before she left, she had asked me if I wanted to come. I told her no because... well... I just didn't want to go. I was a kid and I thought watching TV was more exciting than waiting in line for groceries or a package.
It was around 11 PM when I started wondering why mom wasn't home yet. Usually she would have been home about two hours ago, telling me to go to bed because it was, and I quote, "too late for a fifteen-year-old to still be up at this hour". Not that I would've gone to sleep right away. I'd probably be on my phone for the next hour or so until I got tired or bored. But right now, my mom was not here to tell me what to do. If we had been keeping track of how long it would take my mom to shop, this would've been a new world record.
Then the garage door opened. About time, I thought. I was actually tired at this point and was kind of hoping my mom would arrive soon so that I wouldn't fall asleep. Then my mom would have had to find a new way into the house. I remember ever since I was ten, my mom would leave me home alone, and whenever she got home, I would walk to the door that led to our garage and wait for the engine on her car to turn off before unlocking and opening the door for her.
I got up from the couch and trudged towards the door. I quietly listened for the engine to hum and then get cut off. I listened for my mom's high heels to click towards me, quietly at first, but gradually getting louder. But when I stopped to listen, all I heard was silence. It was like I had gone deaf instantly. I heard nothing in my house or outside in the garage. No engine, nothing. Not even my mom's clicking high heels sounded behind the locket door.
"Charlie," I heard her voice on the other side. I was relieved. "Please unlock the door."
"What's the secret pass code?" I asked, grinning like a madman.
"Charlie," she said again, "please unlock the door."
"Wrong!" I laughed and began unlocking the door. We had five locks on our garage, front, and back door. My mom liked playing it safe when it came to leaving her only child home alone. "The correct answer was--"
"Charlie. Please... unlock... the door."
"Why do you keep saying that?" I froze where I stood, keeping my fingers on the third lock. This was a little weird. My mom has never even spoken to me through the door. And why was she repeating the same thing to me? "Are you okay, mom?" I asked her through the door.
"Charlie, please unlock the door."
The way she said my name was the creepiest part. After hearing it four times, it started to sound like an echo. In fact, by the forth time, Charlie didn't even sound like a name or a word anymore.
I took my fingers off of the third lock and backed away from the door. It was still quiet in the house, but the further I backed away, the more my name seemed to echo from the garage.
"Charlie, please unlock the door. Charlie, please unlock the door. Charlie, please unlock the door."
I wanted to scream. I wanted to open the door and stab whatever was on the other side with a knife. Have I gone crazy? I thought, holding my head with my hands out of annoyance and the massive headache I had just gotten. I wanted it to end. It hadn't even been going on for five minutes and already--
The front door opened.
I was about to cry out like a frightened five-year-old girl, when I heard a familiar clicking noise. My mom was home.
I ran up to her. She was gently setting her groceries down on the floor and preparing to take her coat and shoes off. I embraced her before she got the chance.
"What's the occasion?" she asked me.
"I'm just... glad you're home, Mom," I said, crying a little with my face buried deep in her coat.
"Did you watch that Don't Be Afraid of the Dark thing again?" she asked with concern.
"No," I said, "just The Bunnyman Massacre."
"You know I hate it when you watch those things right before bed." She let go of me, slipping off her high heels. "As a matter of fact, you should go brush your teeth, slip on your pj's, and head to bed."
I nodded. But I did want to read a little before bed, so I went to the family room to get my book from my backpack. I couldn't wait to just sit in bed for another twenty minutes and just read my new book. It was always my way of ending another day.
And then I looked outside. Our driveway was invisible in the black of night, except for the basketball hoop that stood off towards the side on our lawn. But usually, if something was in the driveway, we would be able to see its shape.
And this time, there was no car.